Walt Whitman Essay Research Paper Walt WhitmanAn

Walt Whitman Essay, Research Paper

Walt Whitman

An American poet, whose work boldly asserts the worth of the individual and the oneness of all humanity. Walt Whitman?s defiant break with traditional poetic concerns and style exerted a major influence on American thought and literature. He is something that no other country could have produced. He is utterly lawless, and in consequence passes for being a great original genius. His produce is unlike anything else that has ever appeared in literature, and that is enough for those qualities of haziness, incoherence, and obscurity, which seem to be the first thing that some readers nowadays look for in poetry.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York. He was the second of six children. From 1825-1830, he attended public school in Brooklyn. After his years of education, Walt Whitman experimented with many different jobs. From 1836-1838, Whitman taught at several schools in Long Island. After teaching, he returned to printing and editing in New York. During this time he edited many papers such as the Aurora (daily newspaper), Evening Tattler, Brooklyn Weekly Freeman, Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the Brooklyn Times. In addition to editing, he also wrote for the Long Island Star. From 1850-1854, he owned and operated a printing office and a stationary store. During this time, he also began to build houses and do some carpentry.

In 1855, Walt Whitman published his first edition of Leaves of Grass. However, at the time, he did not reveal to the public the name of the author or the publisher. Whitman continued writing new editions of Leaves of Grass. Before he passed away, in 1892, Whitman published eleven volumes of Leaves of Grass. In addition to writing eleven volumes of Leaves of Grass, he also wrote a volume of poetry titled ?Drum-Taps? which was published in 1865. Whitman was inspired to write these poems after spending a lot of time with many soldiers who were wounded in the Civil War. Many of these books did not begin to sell until the war was over. Not long after that, in 1873, Whitman suffered the first of many paralytic attacks. These attacks left him an invalid. He decided to live the rest of his life in Camden, New Jersey. This town was located near the river ferries which he loved to watch. He enjoyed the many visitors who came to honor him. In 1888, the paralysis increased. This caused his death on March 26, 1892. He is now buried in a tomb in Hurleigh Cemetery. How and why did the themes of Walt Whitman?s writing change over time? In 1855, Walt Whitman published his first piece of literature, Leaves of Grass. During his life, he wrote on a number of different subjects. The year of 1861 brought many changes in his life. This year and the years that followed changed Whitman?s life and the poetry that he wrote for two major reasons. Although he did not see the Civil War coming, he was very interested in it. At this time Whitman was forty-one years old and was obviously beyond the age of enlistment. Besides being too old, he also had to remain at home and take care of his mother (he had been taking care of her since his fathers death in 1855). Although he was too old, he was determined to be a part of the war. In 1862, he heard the news that his brother had been hurt near Fredericksburg, Virginia. As a result, he traveled to Virginia to help his brother. Although his brother was never wounded, this trip changed Whitman?s life. Upon learning the news that his brother was not wounded, he decided to travel back to Washington DC. When Whitman was traveling to Fredericksburg, VA, he saw so many wounded soldiers in Washington DC, who he wanted to help. So, he spent at least a couple of hours each day bringing material goods to the wounded soldiers. Many times these goods would be writing paper or magazines. As a result of volunteering for a couple of hours each day, the themes of Whitman?s poems had dramatically changed.

In 1873, a couple more changes occurred in Whitman?s life. At the beginning of the year, he became an invalid. This was a result of two things: a minor stroke along with the death of his mother in May of 1873. Whitman and his mother had a very close relationship. One poem that Whitman wrote was titled, ?Starting from Paumanok?. The opening lines of this poem shows some of the admiration that Walt Whitman had for his mother. The death of his mother caused great pain for Whitman. This left him feeling extreme isolation and depression. The poem that he wrote that revealed his depression was ?Prayers of Columbus?.

Despite the fact that Whitman wrote about a variety of subjects, there are two main things that changed his writings. These two factors are the Civil War and the death of his mother. As a result of these two factors the tone and mood in which he wrote changed. As a whole these two factors changed his writings completely. What motivated Whitman to write? There are many things in Walt Whitman?s life that motivated him to write. With these motivations he developed a sense of determination. This as a whole helped him achieve overall success. Whitman experimented with many different jobs before ever completing any of his works. He was a teacher, an editor and a journeyman printer for several different newspapers. This is where his experience in writing and publishing began. The first piece of work that Whitman published was Leaves of Grass, in 1855. The first edition did not sell very well. As a result, Whitman made every attempt to change this. He sent numerous copies of his book to other well-known poets. Among these poets was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Not long after that Whitman received a response from Emerson. This response back to him encouraged him tremendously. Although his first edition of Leaves of Grass did not sell very well, this did not discourage him. In fact, he was so motivated by Emerson?s letter that sections from the letter were included in second edition of Leaves of Grass. The spine of this edition reads, ?I greet you at the beginning of a great career?. In conclusion this letter from Emerson was Whitman?s key motivation. Who is the poem ?O Captain! My Captain!? about? Why was this poem written? During the times of the Civil War, Walt Whitman experienced different surroundings. Throughout all his time seeing the actions of the Civil War, he greatly honored one man. This one man was Abraham Lincoln. Even though Whitman never met Lincoln, he saw him almost every single day during one season, when the president, who was living out of town, rode by on his horse surrounded by a squad of cavalrymen. Whitman shared Lincoln?s sympathy with people everywhere that were struggling to be free. In all of the political matters, Whitman and Lincoln fully agreed. The poem ?O Captain! My Captain!? was about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although Whitman had never met Lincoln, he wrote in such great detail that one would believe he was standing next to Lincoln when he was killed.

A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature. ?Mythological and Archetypal Approaches.? 158-93.

Fishkin, Shelley Fisher. ?Journalism and Imaginative Writing in America.? From Fact to Fiction. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985. 11-52.

Miller, James E. Jr. Walt Whitman. Twayne Publishers, Inc. 1962. 15-145.

Sill, Geoffrey M. ?A Centenial Collection.? Walt Whitman of Mickle Street. The University of Tennessee Press, 1994. 1-296.

Tarbell, Roberta K. Sill, Geoffrey M. Ed?s. Walt Whitman and the Visual Arts. Futgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1992. 1-160.


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